Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango (2014, translated by Imogen Taylor)

The Truth and other Lies opens in cracking fashion. Henry Hayden is sitting in a car, on a cliff. His mistress, Betty, has just handed him an ultrasound picture of their baby. He knows the baby is his and he must go home and tell his wife, Martha, that he is leaving her for a life of domesticity he does not want. He is trapped. The situation is even more complicated because Henry is a bestselling award-winning author of international fame and reknown. It was Betty from Moreany Publishing who discovered him when, on a day that she was fed up with her normal boring job, she decided to attack the slush pile and read and loved his first novel, Frank Ellis. Frank Ellis was a huge success and saved Moreany Publishing from folding. But, Henry has not written a single word of any of his successful books. Every word of every novel was written by Martha, whose heart he is about to break.

I know that seems like a lot of information and a bit spoiler-y, but all of that is told to us in the first seven pages. It is one of the best opening chapters I have ever read and it hooked me instantly. I was intending on reading just a little bit while eating my lunch but instead spent an hour zooming through the first 100 pages. After that, it slows down a little bit (which is good or I wouldn't have been able to stop!) but it remains engaging right up until the very end,

The Truth and other Lies reminds me a lot of Herman Koch's The Dinner, where the goalposts are constantly being shifted in directions you don't expect and (truthfully) kind of hope they don't go. The characters are unpleasant and act in ways that you don't understand but, like a car crash (of which there are several in this book) it's just impossible to look away. Like many others, I did find the end of the book a little bit unsatisfactory. That said, at just over 200 pages long, it is a good fast-moving read. 3.5 stars.

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